Byrd asks SGA to consider campus center alternatives

Simpson President John Byrd told SGA members Wednesday night that administrators and the Board of Trustees are considering alternative plans for a new campus center. He also asked student senators to consider extending the current student fee that is associated with that project.When the Board of Trustees met last week, they discussed how they could “reconceptualize the facility,” Byrd said.The plan Byrd promoted Wednesday night involved remodeling the current Brenton Student Center and doubling the size of the building.Administrators have been working to raise funds for a proposed campus center for at least five years. The estimated cost of the project is 21 million dollars, of which, eight million had been raised through November, 2009. A renovation to the BSC would cost eight to nine million dollars less than the original plan Byrd said.Students have been contributing a $100 portion of their student fee to the new campus center each year since the 2006-07 school year. The agreement made between Byrd and SGA calls for the student fee to end in 2010 if construction has not started on the project.Now, Byrd is asking SGA to continue the student contributions.”Involvement of student government and the student body through fees is critical,” Byrd said. According to Byrd, that in combination with a new campus center proposal could draw new donors.”When we get something new on the table, it gets the donor base more excited,” he said.Renovations to the current BSC would double the space. Today, the BSC is about 25,000 square feet. With an expansion, it would be 52,000 square feet – a comparable size to a brand new 50,000-square-foot campus center, Byrd said.He also estimated that project would took 36 months to complete, and he hopes to break ground during Simpson’s 150th year, 2010-11.”With a little luck, we’ll have a second hole in the ground during the sesquicentennial year,” Byrd said, referring to construction on the Blank Performing Arts Center as the first, which he hopes will begin this spring.Jim Thorius, vice president and dean of student development said the plan makes sense as a way to cut funds while still providing a useable space.”A 35 to 40 percent downsize in funding results in 35 to 40 percent fewer square feet,” Thorius said. “President Byrd and the board are committed to not making a second-class campus center.That’s why a downsized campus center wouldn’t be a good idea.”Byrd did acknowledge that one drawback of a BSC remodel is that it does not provide more academic space.Under the original plan, once the new campus center is completed, the BSC is supposed to be renovated and used for classrooms and other academic space. To compensate for this, Byrd said the school would build a new academic building which he would start fundraising for immediately after the BSC renovations are completed.According to junior Macy Koch, SGA vice president, administrators have been considering this decision for a while.”They’ve been brainstorming for a long time,” Koch said. “If they completely renovate the BSC and build a brand new academic building, it’s a win-win situation.”Other members of SGA had mixed reactions to the proposal. Junior Steven Ramsey told Byrd during the meeting that if done properly, the project could be a “blessing in disguise.” Ramsey noted that the BSC was more centralized than the location of the original campus center – behind Pfeiffer Dining Hall.JoAnna Freeland, freshmen class president said that administrators should stick with their original plan.”When they presented it, it was presented as a new student center.” Freeland said. “They should follow through.”Senior SGA President Drew Riebhoff said student senators will be voting on whether or not to continue the fee in the next month or two.